RNs, LPNs and LVNs –What’s the Difference?


RN LPN LVN - What's the difference

By Alana Luna, Contributor

You’re thinking about becoming a nurse, but how will you choose between all the permanent nurse career options currently on offer? In an industry full of medical acronyms and expanding job descriptions, it’s helpful to know the difference between a perm LPN, a perm LVN and the life of a permanent RN.

Check out the current nurse job listings at NursingJobs.com and find the entry level, advanced or leadership role that best fits your skill set and education.

What does an LPN do?

A licensed practical nurse, or LPN, is a type of nurse who works under the close supervision of a registered nurse (RN) to provide patient care and tend to basic administrative duties. LPNs may work in nursing homes, hospitals, private practices, rehab centers, home-based care settings or even on military bases. Though an LPN’s responsibilities shift depending on the place of employment and needs of the patient population, an LPN may do everything from monitoring vital signs to communicating with family members.

It takes students about a year to complete the necessary coursework to become an LPN.

What does an LVN do?

LVN stands for licensed vocational nurse, a term used in California and Texas to describe what is essentially the exact same job done by LPNs in the rest of the country. There may be some subtle changes in the list of responsibilities tasked to LPNs or LVNs depending on the laws of the state you’re in, but for the most part the two titles are identical.

What’s the job description for permanent RNs?

Out of LPNs, LVNs, and registered nurses, permanent RNs have the most responsibility. They also require the most education, including a minimum of a two-year associate degree in Nursing (ADN) program. As a result, RNs garner the most pay; registered nurses average about $33.65 per hour or $70,000 per year.

In general, RNs serve as the front line of patient care. They work with other providers on each patient’s healthcare team, administer medication, monitor overall well-being, facilitate patient and caregiver education and update medical records. RNs working in a specialized setting may also take on additional duties; for instance, a critical care RN may receive additional training in life support while an RN working in a rehabilitation center might know more about dialysis or palliative care.

RNs also have the ability to obtain leadership roles, such as a nurse manager or nurse educator. This jump in responsibility requires an advanced degree, but it also comes with an average raise of about $14,000.

Understanding the differences between your permanent nurse career options

Deciding on a professional path isn’t easy, but the good news about exploring your permanent nurse career options is that nothing is final. If you choose to start as a perm LPN or LVN, you can continue your education and transition to an RN role later on. Keep learning on the job, and you’ll advance sooner than you think.

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